I have had some pretty good theological conversations over the past week or two that were inspired by the whole "Rob Bell controversy", which essentially revolves around Bell writing a book that deals with questions about Heaven, Hell, and the "Good News" that most people are already asking.
There have been many who have made some sort of accusation that these types of "deeper", "complex" conversations (in this case mostly about Hell) could confuse or lead "younger Christians" or non-believers astray. (if you think I am singling you out, I am not... I'm talking about someone else)
Funny, I think the same thing could be said about a church ending every service with an "alter call" containing some sort of a threat of eternal damnation if one doesn't come forward and repeat a certain prayer...
But that would make me "seeker sensitive".
It got me thinking about what the real fear here could be. If a non-believer or "new christian" read or over heard the conversations going on, then it would be confusing and they would either be lead astray, or walk away from the faith all together.
Before going on, ill say this... It seems that by "led astray" they mean someone (not able to think for themselves) may lean towards my side of the conversation, and of course, i must be wrong. I didn't take offense.
A New Testament phrase comes to mind.
"Let those who have ears, hear."
This is a phrase we find in scripture often spoken by Jesus directly after a parable.
What does Jesus mean by saying this?
Parables are fictitious stories, usually using language such as, but not limited to, metaphorical, allegorical, and or hyperbole in order to convey a certain truth.
And guess what... Apparently they were unclear and even confusing. And whats more amazing is that Jesus/authors intended for them to be that way.
The disciples at one point finally ask Jesus why he spoke in parables, and Jesus pretty much says, to make people think. Those who aren't interested will walk away, but those who are serious will engage in the conversation.
I am in no way trying to compare a mere conversation with a parable Jesus told, rather just pointing out that Jesus didn't seem to be too concerned with people "not getting it" or not being interested. Remember that one rich guy who walked away sad?
I don't think the answers are as easy as we try to make them or would like them to be.
Also, Jesus never used the "eternal damnation" language with "sinners" either. Seems like he saved that kind of talk for self-righteous religious folk.